Emotional Health ― Balancing Responsible Self-Interest with Care and Compassion for Others

People with good emotional health are in control of their thoughts and behaviors. They feel positive about themselves and have good relationships. They can keep their problems in perspective. They have both self-awareness and self-control. They are compassionate and empathetic.

What Should I Know About My Teenager’s Emotional Health?

The teenage years are a time of transition from childhood into adulthood. Teens often struggle with being dependent on their parents while having a strong desire to be independent.  Ideally, they are maturing from the one-sided self-centeredness of childhood to a self-identity that balances responsible self-interest with care and love for others.

What Are The Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy People?

People who are emotionally healthy view all that they do and say in light of how their words and actions affect others. They do not manipulate, exploit, or abuse others. They understand that the world does not revolve around them. They are not self-absorbed and they don’t feel entitled. They recognize their self-centered nature but choose to value their relationship with God and others over their own self-interest. Because of this, they are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ― Philippians 2:3-4

Selfishness, self-centeredness!  That, we think, is the root of our troubles. ― Bill Wilson

Emotionally healthy people accept personal responsibility for their behavior and their choices.  There is no victim mentality, no blaming others, society and the universe for their problems or disappointments. They realize that they are in charge of their lives ― responsible for every action, word and thought, and accountable for the resulting consequences.

I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. ― Robert Heinlein

Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. ― Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make. ― Denis Waitley

People who are emotionally healthy experience, acknowledge, identify, and accept their own emotions. This means that they are open to their feelings and are aware of what they are actually feeling. They don’t distract themselves from their emotions through hiding or numbing themselves with obsessive behaviors (e.g., drug and alcohol use, sex, self-injurygambling, work, hobbies, Internet use). Those who are not in touch with their own feelings are not likely to have a sense of conscience.

I learned to be with myself rather than avoiding myself with limiting habits; I started to be aware of my feelings more, rather than numb them. ― Judith Wright

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. ― Rachel Carson

Because emotionally healthy people are in touch with their feelings, they can identify with others’ feelings ― they show empathy. It’s necessary to not only “get into the shoes,” but get “into the heart and soul” of another. To do that, the person must put the need for acknowledgement of his or her own emotions on hold. Being able to correctly and comprehensively read another person’s emotional messages empowers them to intuitively identify with the person. Emotionally healthy people are able to imaginatively insert themselves in other people’s situations and experience them intimately. In turn, they are able to feel and make a compassionate response.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ― Harper Lee

The only real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes; in seeing the universe through the eyes of another, one hundred others ― in seeing the hundred universes that each of them sees. ― Marcel Proust

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe. ― Homer

What Can I Do to Help My Teen?

Working on your own emotional health and communicating your love for your teen are the most important things you can do.  Children decide how they feel about themselves in large part by how their parents behave and react to them. It’s also important to discuss your values and spiritual beliefs, and to set expectations and boundaries (e.g., honesty, self-control, respect for others), while still allowing teens to have their own space.

Parents of teens often find themselves noticing only the problems, and they may get in the habit of giving mostly negative feedback and criticism. Although teens need feedback, they respond better when it is given positively and spoken with love.

Acknowledging and praising appropriate, responsible, and caring  behavior can help your teen feel a sense of accomplishment, enhance self-esteem, and reinforce your family’s values.

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